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Music Review: Our Lady Peace – Burn Burn

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When David Cook of American Idol fame announced that Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace were among his favourite bands, it was as though a weight was lifted from the shoulders of Raine Maida. Here was Maida fumbling around after a solo record that featured spoken word and a variation of musical styles when all he needed was right in front of him in the form of mild radio-friendly adult alternative rock.

Burn Burn finds the quartet mimicking U2, Coldplay, the Goo Goo Dolls and other anthemic acts in hopes of capturing some audience-widening notoriety, but the shoe never seems to fit. Instead, Maida comes off sounding like Chris Martin with a cold and the rest of the band never hits a solid stride.

Perhaps Maida’s been too busy penning tracks for Cook and Kelly Clarkson or perhaps the band is simply working too hard at getting play in the United States, but Our Lady Peace’s lack of a sound to call their own makes Burn Burn less a cohesive rock record from one of Canada’s biggest acts and more a case of “Name That Sound.”

Despite its cheesy lyrics, “All You Did Was Save My Life” works well enough as an album-opener. It sounds a little like a jumpy Christian rock tune, complete with backing vocals and guitar progressions swimming upstream, but Maida sounds earnest enough and luckily lacks his usual self-importance.

Sadly, it’s all downhill from there.

The verses of “Dreamland” seem to ape Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” complete with vocal fills, while the tacky chorus doesn’t do any favours either. And “Monkey Brains” is a paint-by-numbers track that insipidly sputters from hard rocker to acoustic balladry right on schedule.

Looking back, Our Lady Peace has almost always struggled with identity issues. By introducing themselves in the mid-90s with Naveed and Clumsy, their two best records, the band became Canada’s very own alternative rock/grunge outfit. After grunge faded, however, OLP struggled to discover themselves on albums like Happiness…Is Not a Fish You Can Catch and Spiritual Machines and never recovered.

Burn Burn is more of the same. As skilled as Our Lady Peace is musically, they never seem to get out of the gate artistically. There’s little here that feels momentous or authentic, regrettably, and the band’s lack of inner distinctiveness is once again evidenced by their uninspiring, monotonous songs.

About Jordan Richardson

  • brooke

    aww, that’s harsh. OLP is a talented band.

  • Mike

    I haven’t given this album a listen yet, but have noticed their trend towards mainstream, generic rock over the last couple of albums. The reason why I always liked them so much was because of their distinct sound. Now that appears to be gone.

    I will disagree with you on one thing – I really thought that they were distinguishing themselves with Happiness… and Spiritual Machines, and consider those two of their strongest efforts. It’s slowly been downhill from there. Too bad…

  • Bob

    As a big fan of Our Lady Peace, I have to say I am extremely disappointed with Burn Burn. “All you did was save my life” has no individuality besides Raine’s voice that marked OLP in the past. The rest of the album blunders around with no direction, or as Richardson wrote “it’s all downhill from there.”

    I remember reading somewhere, (not sure if it is true) they tossed their old producers and decided to make this album themselves. I believe it shows. There is no cohesiveness between songs, and Raine’s powerful lyrics are marred by laughable weak melodies, overdone reverb and out of tune background vocals.

    If you were a fan of past OLP ballads, perhaps Burn Burn is for you. “Dreamland” and “Paper Moon” are listenable slower songs, but I may jump out a window if I have to listen to “All you did was save my life” one more time.

    All that being said though, I still consider myself an OLP fan and will continue to by their albums in the future in hopes that they find their way back to the musical genius that was Spiritual Machines and Happiness.

  • Rob

    I have to agree with Bob on this – the album is a major letdown. I can understand why Mike Turner had to leave now.

  • JC

    Wha? this cd isn’t bad, its much better than the last two. I can’t see how you can think songs like “Escape Artist”, “Monkey Brains”, “Paper Moon” are artistic downfalls, fuck find me a dozen “Mainstream” acts that are producing better new material then their old classics.

  • Kristina

    I totally disagree that the album goes downhill after “All You Did Was Save My Life.” In fact, that’s the one song that should have been cut. I find Burn Burn mediocre for the most part, but “Escape Artist”, “Refuge”, and “Paper Moon” are solid.

    Also, Happiness and Spiritual Machines were two of the band’s most creative efforts. All this talk about people wanting the band wanting to revisit their Naveed and Clumsy days should take another listen at the two records they released after…they proved with those two albums that they can change their sound and do a good job. It’s just too bad that Spirital Machines was a commercial failure, because I honestly think it was the best record OLP ever put out.

  • Olivia

    Well, in my opinion Burn Burn wasn’t their best cd, but better than Healthy in paranoid times i thought.. Songs like “Paper Moon” “Never Get Over You” and “Escape Artist” were not letdowns to me. But Raine doesn’t use that falsetto voice like he used to and i feel that was one of the things that made olp different, and it is kind of disapointing that he stopped..
    And i also thought that Happiness and Spiritual Machines were their best albums.

  • Hass

    Burn Burn is not a bad album at all. For any band, this would be a Great album, but for OLP it is just a Good album. This is still better than just about all the other music out there and being played on the radio. I’m still hoping for more OLP and that they team back up with Arnold Lanni.

  • Bon

    Change is always a good thing for me. As with other successful maturing bands putting up a 7th album is no ordinary feat. I dont see the relevance of comparing OLP with the likes of U2, Coldplay or even Goo Goo Dolls, OLP has always been OLP. If there’s one album I can listen to for one whole week it’s gonna be Burn Burn. No offense but, I think the reviewer is pretty one dimensional and should have reviewed Daughtry’s new album instead or David Cook or Kelly Clarkson for that matter.

  • AJ

    Personally i rate this album much higher than Healthy In Paranoid Times; which felt far too “radio-friendly.”
    Admittedly Burn Burn is very radio-friendly, but that’s OLP. They’re changing with the times, just as many long surviving bands do. Their return to alternative melodies (if still mainstream)is, to me, a welcome change.

  • CornDog

    Btw they lost their awsome guitarist and replaced him with some kid. After so many years Peral Jam has never failed me but OLP is finished. Dead, you hear me! DEAD!

  • Ian

    this reviewer is f*ed haha dont know if i can actually say that on this but honestly this c-d is really good haha escape artist,white flags, dreamland, paper moon are probaly the best songs on the c-d all you did was one of the not so best. All their albums are differnt which is one thing i love about the band they keep variety each album is distinct and differnt for instance naveed is really differnt from happiness both increidble albums. The reviewer should be honest and hop off the bandwagon of “oh their old stuff was much better why did mike leave” which is just what everyone says now and accept what the band makes now and realize how actually good the band still is haha you never head songs this good on any mainstreem radio anywyas haha there a wicked band and alwyas were and will be

  • T.

    Maybe Our Lady Peace reinvented their sound in previous items, but I wouldn’t say they had “Identity issues”. Naveed to Spiritual Machines, the first four albums were very good and distinct. Gravity and Healthy had good songs, but some songs pointed Our Lady Peace toward the mainstream blah in sound and in lyrics. From what I’ve read, the new single “All you did was save my life” has attracted a new fanbase–13 year old girls–to OLP. This may be the most profitable following, but threatens to turn away the old fans.
    The reviewer above has interesting points, but is too condeming imo.

  • Mark from the USA

    I don’t get you “critics.” Why can’t you appreciate the music for what it is. This album is full of brilliant, melodic songs. Sounds like you wanted them to make an album called “Naveed and the Clumsy Mechanical Fish”.
    I do think it sounds like a mix of Gravity and Healthy… But these records have a different guitarist that the first 4, so don’t ever expect that record I named above to ever come out.
    I do think you have to be an idiot to believe most of what you said though: Like “the shoe never seems to fit” Fit what? What size shoe are you expecting this CD to fit into? And the comment about writing songs that fit the USA. The album charted around 40 and then dropped to 140 or so. They’ll be lucky to sell 100,000 copies in the USA. I have also noticed that the new single has not made any chart in America. Then you say that Dreamland sounds like Hunger Strike. Now I understand your perspective of this record… You didn’t actually listen to it. The only similarities are the first 20 seconds of that song, and that’s because they both have guitars playing arpeggios.
    Anyway, I wish I didn’t waste my time reading your article and I shouldn’t have written this because it’s a waste of my breath to point out the obvious, that you’re an idiot.

  • Mark from the USA

    One more thing. Someone said that “All you did was save my life” was a 13 year old teeny bopper type song. Well, music is what you make it. I am 33 and almost died of an overdose of medications that were prescribed to me. My girlfriend came noticed I was acting very odd and rushed me to the hospital. I’ll never forget the moment when I was slouched in the car with the thought that it’s over… I’m gonna die. Well, I likely would have if she wasn’t there to save my life. Those lyrics are pretty much dead on with what happened to me just a couple days ago. I doubt many 13 year old’s have that story to tell.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Mark,

    In my appreciation for music for what it is, I came to the conclusion you read in the review. Surely you’re not suggesting that there’s only one way to listen to music or that there’s only one way to experience art.

    Your claim that I didn’t listen to the record is absolutely false and the rest of your comment, based on the premise that you didn’t even read all of my review, is equally wrongheaded.

    There’s nothing wrong, at all, with enjoying this album and finding love/passion/excitement in music. This review represents my opinion and having one does not make me an “idiot.”

    In terms of “the shoe never seems to fit,” I don’t expect you to understand the remark, especially given the fact that you admit to not having read the article. Viewed in context, I think it makes perfect sense.

    Thank you for your comment, Mark. It’s too bad that at 33 years of age you can’t come up with a better way to disagree with people than to call them “idiots,” but I guess that’s how it goes.

  • falconpug

    the album is a solid grade of a B. it is very well polished and flows through the minutes of the tracks. none of the songs sound the same as the tracks differentiate. a true olp fan will enjoy this record in its entirety. however, i would have hoped that michael anthony maida would have used his vocals to his capability (their signature sound) in strategic parts of the record. his iconic howl is what makes some rock songs great, however annoying to some critics who dont like them. i felt like you wanted to go their raine but then decided that us americans would not let it make the radio.

  • http://myspace.com/aveneta Sarah (spiritualmachines4)

    I love the band (proof is that my email is spiritualmachines4 and MySpace: middleof yesterday) but do sadly agree that their edge doesn’t seem to be there any more. I thought they’d try and ‘hit it big’ with Gravity (which is a great album of rock anthems) and then bring back the alt/grunge side that they write and deliver so well! (and Raine shows he’s still got ‘it’ with the songs he wrote for his solo album). I’m ever optimistic for the future, however at the minute it does seem that they’re writing tracks for middle aged women and a radio-listening Christian audience.

  • Hugh MacLennan

    This review makes me question you as a music reviewer. You clearly do not know what your talking about, your good with words, I’ll give you that, but to say Our Lady Peace struggles with identity crisis is blasphemy.

    Our Lady Peace has always been a band catered to the small audience. They are not mainstream. I think it’s stupid that people are so critical of bands evolution. Should a band make music that sounds the same for all their albums, or should they experiment, and express who they are at the time of making music, instead of who they were when they started out.

    Music isn’t about how good it sounds, it’s about how well a person conveys their emotions through sound.

  • Ryan

    If the “shoe” never seems to fit, well i love my unfit shoes then. OLP is great, and some ppl dont seem to understand anything higher than “m-bop” like the reviewer, this cd is great, and for me just fits right into the category of OLP, they’re a category on themselves.

    You cannot compare OLP with u2 or whatever… Olp is just olp, and their music is just their music

    i wish the reviewer had the brains to write only one of these genial songs, then he’ll notice that he’s being too darn harsh… I believe fast food is ruining your brain mate haha

  • Vish

    mark is right..jordan is an idiot!!

  • Shark

    OLP good —> Naveed,Clumsy,Happiness

    Somewhere in the middle —> Spiritual

    OLP Sad —> Everything else.
    I just started listening to adult music when these guys made it big. And being a Canadian kid when these guys made it, I was soooo proud. But as they got older i believe they tried to find their true identity as artists, but what I think occured, is the actually lost it. I understand change in sound, but this is change in everything. The black crowes, KOL and maybe if Alice in chains lead coulda stayed more healthy, all stayed relevant for much longer. A shame.